Anatomy of a Media Release
by Carol White
One of the most basic parts of your marketing plan is your media plan. How are you going to let people know about your book so that they can find it and buy it? The answer to this question certainly includes notifying the media, right?
Of course, before you get to this point, your product has to be ready to market. There is no point embarking on a publicity campaign otherwise.
Is your product well targeted for its genre/market? Do you do know who will buy the book, or are you aiming at “everybody”?
Has it been professionally produced—either by you or with help as needed? Professional designers, editors, and marketers can all improve the end result.
Is the book priced right for its market according to your analysis of its competition?
Will your targeted readers be able to buy it where they are used to shopping for information on your subject? Your well-thought-out Web site is only the beginning, and Amazon is only the next step; from there, think about other online venues and about stores that serve your audience.
Once you are ready to launch your media campaign, you’ll need the tools to do that: one or more releases, an author bio, some sample interview questions for broadcast media or online virtual interviews, a “sell” sheet, and more.
A good release doesn’t tell about your book—it tells a story that people care about. Nobody cares that one more book has been published. Unless you are John Grisham or Tom Clancy, you need a hook.
Releases should be delivered online. A fancy print media kit is still useful for certain things. For instance, I used mine when I was trying to get in with AAA and RVIA—both big companies that aren’t media businesses per se—and it worked well with them. But most media people now want information in electronic form (so they can cut and paste), and they want it fast and easy—no fluff—so be sure each release you send includes a link to your media room that will let them download cover art, author pictures, and maybe other material to use with a story.
I’ve selected two press releases of my own that have had thousands of views and hundreds of “pickups” as examples of what makes a release work year after year.
The first example ties to a topic of continuing interest to most Americans—the price of gasoline—especially during summer vacation time, which is when it usually gets picked up and used. I update the pricing information and rerelease it year after year, holiday after holiday.
The second example was tied to a not-very-successful movie, but it gets viewed on my Web site and on PRWeb every single month years after its first release. Tying your press information to a cultural topic (for instance, a movie, a play, or a musical group that keeps appearing) can give it a long life.
To be effective, a press release must have:
• clearly stated contact information
• an action-oriented headline that grabs attention
• an opening paragraph that pulls people into your story
• quotes from famous people or people with impressive relevant credentials that
support your information and add interest and credibility
• problem-solving information related to your story—how will what’s in your book make
readers’ lives better or easier, or how will it entertain them—in other words, what
is the value to them?
• humor and fun when appropriate
• bullet points or short sectional headlines that help people easily skim for
• a closing paragraph that wraps up the release’s key point, sells the value of your
book (and story), and includes a strong closing sentence
• a short bio
• basic information about the book (ISBN, format, page count, price, and so on)
• a link to the book’s Web site or page
• additional media information (such as availability for interviews, local appearances in
conjunction with the story, contests being conducted around the story, and so on)
• links to cover art, head shots, illustrations, and other material that media people
might want to pick up and use
All this needs to be presented in clear, concise sentences and generally in 500 to 750 words.
Make sure your release won’t turn media people off. They’ll ignore it if it seems like an advertisement for you or your book, if it’s markedly biased, if it includes clearly objectionable copy, and if it’s too dense, too rambling, too long, or otherwise hard to read.
What I always tell my clients is: Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes and figure out, from that perspective, what you would want to hear about this story/book and whether this release delivers that information. It often takes several tries to get the story right, but with a good eye toward your customer (and not yourself), you will be well on your way to writing a release that you will be proud of, and one that will get excellent media coverage both now and for some time in the future.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Carol White
888 522 TRIP (8747)
5 Reasons Why Gas Prices Shouldn’t Cancel Your Memorial Day Fun
Everyone seems to be complaining about the high cost of fuel causing them to cancel their summer vacation plans. Carol White, co-author of the book “Live Your Road Trip Dream,” says, “I don’t like the higher prices, but if you take a careful look at it, it’s something that most of us can deal with.”
Did you cancel last year’s plans? According to AAA, gas prices have increased an average of $.55 a gallon since last Memorial Day. Let’s go crazy and say it has been $.75 a gallon in your area. If your summer trip is 1000 miles long and your car gets an average of 23 MPG, your fuel will cost $32.60 more this year than last. One dinner at home instead of eating out before you go will save that much. Is $32 any reason to cancel your vacation?
What does it really cost? When you add up all the expenses of a vacation, fuel only counts as about the second or third highest expense. Typically food and lodging will cost more than fuel. If you need to cut back, consider RVing or eating more meals in, or renting a slightly less expensive lodging.
How can you afford to RV? According to a study done for the RV Association, RVing is still less expensive than piling a family of four into an airplane and hotels for vacation. Using a similar example to the one above and a typical mid-size RV fuel economy of 12 MPG, the additional fuel cost for RV fuel this year would be $62.50. This is easily offset by the lower cost of campgrounds vs. motels, resorts or cabins at your favorite destination.
What about family bonding? One of the best parts of taking a road trip or an RV get-away is the extra time you get to spend with your traveling companions. In the close quarters of automobiles, RVs, campgrounds and motels, a family has the opportunity to enjoy old-fashioned fun like cards, board games, campfires and more. It really is fun talking to your kids. Ditch the electronics just for the week and see what might happen.
And the final reason you shouldn’t let fuel get in your way? You and your family deserve the time together and the time away. Have everyone work together to be able to afford the extra cost of gas. Go on a Starbucks-free week, check for the best fuel prices, just say “no” to an evening at the movies, or take a pass on that cute new pair of shoes, and you will have the added money to cover fuel.
Don’t let the “psychology of price,” rather than real price, get the best of you. Have fun and enjoy your summer vacation.
Carol White is the co-author of the award-winning book, “Live Your Road Trip Dream” (www.roadtripdream.com)—the ultimate road trip planning guide for extended road trips. Carol and her husband, Phil, have traveled over 50,000 road miles in the past several years, visiting all fifty states and having visited all of the National Parks in the “lower forty-eight.” As national spokespeople for the RV Industry, they now spend their days speaking, writing, and helping others to live their dreams.
Prominently display your contact information
Create an eye-catching headline tied to news stories (gas prices)
and/or an event (Memorial Day)
Use quotes; quote yourself or other experts just as a professional
publicist would do
Use bullets or short headlines for easy skimming
Another quote from an “expert,” and one everybody will recognize
State the problem in simple terms
Everyone’s interested in money; help them see that your solution will cost them less
More money-saving tips
Play not only to the “hard” reasons (money, time) to do something, but
also to the psychological or emotional reasons
Find fun for people
Continue to solve their problems. That’s one reason people buy books, to
solve a problem. Other reasons include relieving pain, learning, and being
entertained. Find a way to use as many of those reasons in your release as possible
Use a strong ending that wraps up your point in a few words
Along with quoting yourself and your book, here is your pitch for a payoff:
a little about the author, a link to your Web site, and a short, powerful
statement about your book
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Carol White
888 522 TRIP (8747)
“Elizabethtown” Brings Road Tripping into the 21st Century
How cool is this? You are driving down the highway listening to custom CDs with “road-appropriate” music and information about what to see. “This movie really showcases the technology that is available to completely customize your trips,” says Carol White, author of “Live Your Road Trip Dream—Travel for a Year for the Cost of Staying Home” (RLI Press, 2004, www.roadtripdream.com). She continues, “Even just a few years ago, taking road trips meant being out of touch and fumbling with maps and travel guides. Now you can surf the web (not recommended while in the driver’s seat, however), listen to custom audios about things along the way, check your email back home and call to check in, all while living your road trip dream.”
White, who along with her husband, Phil, took off and traveled the country for a year as part of making their dreams come true, knows a lot about the technology of road tripping. But before you even consider your technology needs, there are a few things you must do.
“The first thing you must do is set a date. It doesn’t matter how far in the future that date is, setting the date makes it real,” says Carol. “Once you have committed to the time you will leave on your trip, then everything begins to fall into place—a self-fulfilling prophecy,” adds Phil.
“We’re not trying to make it sound too simplistic, because there are lots of details to be arranged to make a great road trip happen, but if all you do is dream and wish, the chances of it ever happening are remote. Once you have made the commitment to yourself, your friends and family will begin to realize you are serious, and begin to help you make it a reality,” says Carol.
She goes on to encourage others: “People we met all along the way had some version of a road trip in their heads, but couldn’t figure out how to extricate themselves from their daily lives to go live their dream. Whether it is a road trip, a trek through Asia, a backpacking trip through Europe or a sailboat trip around the world, it seems that everyone has a travel dream. When we returned, I did some research and found that there was no guide to help people through all the issues and details—including planning your technology needs—so we decided to write one to encourage all the retiring baby boomers and mid-life sabbatical-takers to go have this fabulous experience for themselves.”
Even if you don’t have a girlfriend to make a custom CD for you like in the movie, there are all kinds of great ideas for what to take along. Carol laughs and says, “If you are directionally challenged and can’t read a map, a GPS system is pretty much a must.” Phil agrees and adds, “My favorite piece of technology was our laptop PC. It allowed me to keep up with all the sports scores along the way, and to load our Trailer Life Campground CD as we rolled along, and have a place picked out in no time.”
The Whites go into great detail in their book not only about how to choose your technology for the trip, but also how to manage your life back home while you are gone. They also provide would-be travelers with tips about everything from what to do with your house and cars, to how to budget and pay for such a trip, to how to manage relationships while you are gone, to what to do about mail, bills and investments.
Their final piece of advice? Don’t over-plan your trip. It is the serendipitous adventures that happen along the way that are the most precious, and if you have planned out every detail, you will either miss the greatest moments of the trip, or find yourself undoing plans along the way. As the trailer for “Elizabethtown” says, “Amazing things can happen when you least expect them.” That is what a good road trip is really all about. So grab your gear and go have the experience for yourself.
For more information on planning your trip, to order your copy of the book, or to invite the Whites to speak to your organization about taking your trip of a lifetime, go to their website at www.roadtripdream.com. The book is also available from online retailers or your favorite bookstore.
About RLI Press: RLI Press is a full-service publisher of travel related materials. Incorporated in 1999 by Phil and Carol White, RLI Press is a DBA of Retirement Lifestyles, Inc., an Oregon Corporation.
Tie your topic to a current event; pop culture is always good
Make up a relevant quote that showcases your expertise and ties it to the event
Transition from the event to your expertise and your reason for writing this
Provide advice on ways to solve the problem
Acknowledge their pain
Explain how your book fixes their pain
Keep the tie-in to your release’s theme going
Go from the specific to the general to explain more about how your book helps
Tie it all together with a strong close
Here’s another way to pitch for sales and display your contact information. It was the PR standard when this release first went out
In addition to being an author and a publisher, Carol White is a book-marketing coach and a frequent guest speaker at conventions such as the national AARP Life @ 50+ and The Great North American RV Rally. She has spoken about publishing at Publishing University and meetings of regional publishers’ associations, and her book-marketing consulting practice includes both domestic and international clients. To learn more, visit carolwhitemarketing.com.